Here is the round up of the final week on the Fiji gap year project and then our gap team say their farewell to Uluibau village;
Wednesday 17th November –
After a morning spent relaxing in the village, the team made their way across the island to MDS for the rugby and netball fixtures against Navuti village. Once again the tp gap team were well represented for the final fixture of the expedition, with Tim, Rob, Ali and Neil all getting game time, as well as expedition leaders Tom and Harry. Despite being wet under foot very quickly the standard of rugby being played was great. Navuti were causing some problems but as they looked to attack the ball was dropped. It then became a foot race between Neill and the Navuti back line, and the chance came for Neil to show his pace as he raced past, collected the ball on the bounce and ran in for the first try of the game, and a 5-0 lead for our boys. The intensity of the game continued to be very high, and the Navuti finally got rewards for their efforts, taking a 12-10 lead with just a few minutes to play. Rob showed courage in stepping up to take a penalty kick, and under huge pressure from the Navuti boys, who seemed unaware that you are not allowed to yell and move when someone is taking a penalty kick, pushed the kick just wide of the right hand post. As a finale to a game it was pretty epic, and despite being on the wrong side of the result once again, the boys all took allot of pride from the performance, and thoroughly enjoyed the last chance to play together as a squad!
The netball proved a relaxed affair, and despite taking an early lead in the first quarter it is fair to say that the Uluibau team then looked to play for enjoyment rather than the victory, and when the final whistle blew it was the Navuti ladies who were celebrating. After showers and changing into sulus, bula shorts and jaba dresses the team headed for the Navuti community hall for tea. And then it was party time, and for those who may have never visited Navuti, they like to party hard! The grog was flowing quickly, the band were singing an awesome selection of Fijian and English “hop hop” classics, and the team and village were all up on their feet having a boogy and enjoying the fun!
Thursday 18th November –
After a big day yesterday this morning the gap team enjoyed a relaxed few hours in the shed making bilos, the half coconut shells that you drink kava from. As ever it was a labour of love, with lots of sanding to be done to make it the smooth finish. A couple also cut up extra coconuts to make bracelets, which make lovely souvenirs and gifts! In the afternoon the team relaxed around the village after a busy day yesterday, and in the evening it was once again party time. Thom shall celebrate his birthday in Pacific Harbour during the 10 day adventure stage of the expedition; however his Fijian family were extremely keen for his to have a Fijian birthday to remember.
Thom was dressed in the traditional masi, and the feast prepared was something special. There was also a cake that the family had bought especially for the celebration. Before dinner Thom’s Fijian mum made a speech that was very moving, and throughout the night you could see just how incredibly close he had become to the family. After a dinner there were a few quiet bowls of grog to enjoy whilst the team sang a few songs.
Friday 19th November –
This morning the boys and girls practiced their mekes ready for the big day tomorrow, whilst Millie, Naomi and Rose headed out fishing with Milli’e family, bringing home 16 fish! After lunch there was singing practice for the Fijian hymn that we shall be singing during the final Sabbath service, and then it was “TP Olympics” time. The TP Olympics are always the most anticipated sporting event of the year, and with the races including the “battery&spoon” race, the sack race, the wheelbarrow race, the three legged race and a relay there was huge excitement in the air! As ever the races produced some moments of comedy genius, with Emma’s attempt in the sack race a particular highlight. With the races completed the scores were tied at 3-3, and it went down to a decider, chosen by Raymond von Barneveld who sadly couldn’t compete due to injury. RVB chose for it to be a crawling race to find our champions, and ultimately it was the team of Neil, Hannah, Emma, Tim, Jessie, Richard and Will who held the pack of oreos aloft! Allot of the team then gathered to watch the England vs Australia rugby 15s match which was being shown in one of the houses, whilst others finished off mats and fans that they were weaving. And in the evening it was juice party time, as the team through a party for the kids in the village. With a playlist made of some Fiji classics including Shakira, Justin Bieber and more, the kids and team had an absolute blast together, an evening that shows just what project life is all about!
Saturday 20th November –
Today was a huge day for the gap team, and Uluibau community, as we looked forward to the official opening of the community hall and village “fun day”. With the sun shining the stalls were set up, and after a slow start the kids arrived in their numbers to take part and have some fun. The stalls included face painting, coconut shy, pin the nose on the elephant, “shape box challenge”, and fun races, as well as a refreshments stall selling juice, popcorn, mango skins and lollies. Ali and Hannah were also busy selling raffle tickets for the Think Pacific sulus, and the village ladies were preparing the feast for lunch.
The morning also saw the arrival of our local partners from Suva, including Waliki, the assistant rook for the Lomaiviti Council, Peceli, head of the National Centre for Health Promotion, Seruwaia Beci and her team from the Ministry of Health, and Ponipate, Roko for the Ministry of Fijian Affairs. With all of our projects entirely guided and monitored by these government ministries and bodies, and we are extremely grateful for their continued support, and it was great to welcome them onto Moturiki! With their arrival came the ceremony for the opening of the community hall, which saw the Vakatawa make a speech to the team and village before moving to the hall to cut the ribbon and welcome everyone inside. We then made our way back to the village green where lunch was served by the ladies and a soli given, and then the grog began as the school children and team prepared for the mekes.
The kids went first and were superb, with the girls performing a meke, classes 1&2 and 3&4 doing a dance and the boys performing a spear meke. And then it was the turn of the gap team, with the Tp girls up first and doing extremely well. And then the boys were up, performing their sitting down meke, which brought huge woops and excitement from the crowd, before they themselves performed a spear meke. With the mekes such an intrinsic part of Fijian culture it was an extremely memorable opportunity and experience for the team, and one that I am sure they will never forget!
The gap team and crowd then made their way back into the community hall, with speeches from Harry on behalf of Think Pacific, Waliki on behalf of the Lomaiviti Provincial Council, and an elder from the chiefly matagali on behalf of the village. Thom and Zoe also shared a few of their thoughts and feelings on their experiences during their time in Uluibau. Specially designed and printed sulus were presented to the team, a special reminder of their time in the community. And then the grog party swung into action, as the guitars were played and the team and visitors quickly up onto their feet to “hop hop”. With the partners leaving after 5pm to mark the end of the fun day celebrations there was time to reflect on a great occasion, and one which raised $416.45 for Uluibau village!
Sunday 21st November –
This morning the team attended the final Sabbath service with Uluibau village, singing a Fijian hymn to mark the occasion. The Ratu said a word of thanks on behalf of the community, before Thom, Hannah, Will and Richard said a piece composed by the whole team to share their heart felt feelings of appreciation and gratitude for their time here on Moturiki. The afternoon was then spent packing up before we gathered together in the evening for dinner, with the families, kids and team all there and with the team all showing off their Uuibau sulus for the last night! Feasts in Fiji are always remarkable, and this one was no different, with an unbelievable selection of foods. We then headed to the community hall where the grog began, with our mata ni vanua presenting the tatau on our behalf. With it being Sabbath there was no “hop hop” until after midnight, which gave a fantastic time for the team and their families to sit and tell stories together. Alistair, Thom, Richard and Will also took the time to serve the grog to the Ratu, village elders and those in the hall, and they impressed all those around them with their knowledge and respect of the local customs. Ray also put in an unbelievably quick time in drinking the largest grog bowl in the building!
And as the clock ticked twelve the party really kicked off, with the guitars out giving one last chance to dance the night away. As has become tradition the grog party went until morning, with Ray and Tim the survivors and many more staying until the very early hours..the grog even made its way to the beach as everyone gathered to say their goodbyes. It was then time to load up onto the boats, a time that no blog or diary will ever be able to truly describe. In such a short space of time the team and families become so close, and it was an extremely emotional goodbye for the entire team and village community. As they sang isa isa and waved us off from the beach I knew that the team will always have their home in the small village of Uluibau, and to the community I would like to say a big Vinaka vaka levu, Think Pacific September 2010 gap year team shall forever remember you!
Monday 22nd November –
After the long grog party and sad goodbyes the day on Caqalai was extremely relaxed as the team went for a swim, read their books and sat and reflected on the 8 weeks gone by and prepare for their ten day island safari ahead.